A Mate in Geneva

Thomas_Desaunay

Author: Thomas Desaunay is a chemist specialized in energy conversion and storage. After four years of research in the field of innovative fuel cells and batteries, he decided to broaden his horizons and bring his scientific expertise to tackle climate change.

 

I attended for the first time an UNFCCC intersession that was held in Geneva from 8-13 February. This year, four such meetings are scheduled in order to prepare the Paris agreement (next one 1-11 June in Bonn). As a member of the CliMates’ delegation, I was a NGO observer, representing youth in the YOUNGO constituency. So, what’s really going on in these sessions?

Optimism is still on

First what struck me is that the large majority of parties still aim for the most ambitious target: limit global warming to the famous 2°C – and even 1.5°C was often quoted by the most vulnerable (e.g. island) countries. In spite of all negotiation constraints, after decades of somewhat unfruitful process, IPCC reports still set the tone of most parties’ position. Whether they will be able to actually come to such an agreement or whether financial and technical means will be able to follow is yet still to answer.

 Thomas Desaunay photo

If you don’t fail, you may succeed

Geneva negotiations were lead in such a way that they were virtually unable to fail! So where’s the trick? It’s simple, the most controversial part of the work was postponed to… the next intersession in Bonn. Parties haven’t actually started negotiating but have rather added tons of text in bracket to the draft without possible reply from the other parties. So we’re at that point where nobody knows how painful it is going to be to start from a 86 pages-long text and make all parties hear each other. But according to Venezuela that will be no big deal: “We are all professional negotiators, that’s our job to negotiate, we know we can streamline the agreement and we will do so”. Keeping in mind that if an agreement is to be found between all countries in the world, it will be without any precedent in the history of international negotiations…

And what about NGOs? The youth?

First, I was pleased to find out that countries’ delegation are surprisingly young while I was expecting a tide of grey hair! Delegates are varied in terms of age, gender, and they all seem passionate about their job. How do we come together with them as a NGO representing youth? There’s a paradox: the convention claims to be inclusive and to have an open door policy. But at the same time very few slots are available for us to express ourselves. One of them is the opening plenary session where civil society can usually make 2-minutes statements… that we didn’t do this time. Besides, much work is left for us: meet delegates that could support some of our statements, attend informal meetings with parties… This is a continuous and laborious process that we have to carry out.

 

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